The Party’s Over – What Now?

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.

But I have to wonder:  If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.

Did we not really “get it?”  The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings.  It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.

Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?

Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas.  What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ.  Christmas is only a date on the calendar.  Christ is our source of joy year long.

 

 

Have I Got Great News For You!!!

There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.”

 

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

 

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

 

Papa Can Fix Anything!

My husband has a big reputation to live up to.

A few years ago our youngest granddaughter was given a beautiful carousel.  As she watched the beautiful colors and the animals go round and round she could not resist reaching out and touching them.  In the process, she broke one of them and the carousel would not work.

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Her mother and father both tried to fix it, but could not.  But she was not worried.  She told them to take it to Papa because “Papa can fix anything.”

When my husband got the carousel he knew he had to fix it because he could not disappoint the faith in him that this little girl had.

However, in his attempt to fix the carousel, he actually broke another one of the animals and now he had not one, but two errors on the carousel.

What to do?

He first went on line and tried to find the company that made the carousel to see if they had replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.  While the company still was in business, they no longer made the original carousel  and had no replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.

He then began calling all the repair shops, the jewelry stores, any place he thought might be able to help him.

After several weeks of trying to find someone to repair the carousel he saw an ad for a store that sold and repaired watches and clocks.  The store was in a small town some 30 miles north of our home.  Quickly he drove to the store with the carousel.  What a relief when the owner said he could repair it!

My husband was so glad he left the carousel with the owner without even asking what it would cost.

A couple of weeks later he got a call that the carousel was fixed.  The price tag was much higher than he had anticipated – but what price can be placed on a little girl’s faith in you.

It was worth all the effort and every penny as we watch her each Christmas still be so enchanted by the lights, the music and the animals turning round and round.

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And of course, she had to buy Papa a cup to declare how true it is that “Papa can fix anything.”

 

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The Complete Story of Christmas

Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas.  How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.

What is the complete story of Christmas?  Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds?  Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?

We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God.  He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man.   After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross.   Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.  So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him.  And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”

The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

The complete story of Christmas is about you.  It’s about how much God loves you.

All about the cross

Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand.  But God keeps on reaching.  Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us.  Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.

It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

The beauty of that night was not a calm, serene setting with radiant beams emitting from or around the baby. The beauty of that night was how clearly it showed the love of God – sending His son not to the king’s palace or the rich man’s house, but to a dirty, cold, dark stable.

Grandma's Ramblings

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Silent Night, Holy Night

What a beautiful picture we have of that first Christmas!  Mary and Joseph, dressed in plain, but neat, clothes.  The baby is wrapped in a clean blanket and the shepherds and Wise Men all stand or sit on the clean straw.  And one of our most beloved Christmas carols make it all sound so peaceful and clean.

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright

But was it a silent night?  Was all calm and bright?

According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph had just made a long trip from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem.  This would not be considered a “long” trip today.  It is approximately 100 miles and MapQuest says it can be made in less than two hours.  However, at the time of Jesus’ birth, travel would have been on foot on rough roads with no Holiday Inn or…

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A Solitary Life

There is a poem that has been printed and read for years at Christmas time.  I have often read it but until this year I never really questioned who wrote it or why.  Writing this month about my memories of past Christmas times I thought of this poem and decided to find out who wrote it.

I discovered it was part of a sermon given by Dr. James Allan Francis, a Baptist minister born in Canada.  He gave the sermon on July 11, 1926 speaking to the Baptist Young People’s  Union.  The message was titled, “Arise Sir Knight.”  Transcribed by a friend Dr. Francis published it in a collection of his sermons.

Later minor changes were made to the original words and it has become a popular poem used throughout the church, but especially at Christmas time.

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Here is a man who was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in another obscure village.

He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never owned a home.

He never had a family.

He never went to college.

He never put his foot inside a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of his divine manhood.

While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.

One of them denied him.

Another betrayed him.

He was turned over to his enemies.

He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed upon the cross between two thieves.

His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying, and that was his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today he is the center of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as powerfully as has this one solitary life.

 

 

Christmas Past – Maligayang Pasko

Well it seems I am on a roll – memories of Christmas past just continue to occupy my mind – especially at bedtime.  Maybe it’s just that I am getting old.  Maybe it’s spending this Christmas in a new home in a new state far from what was familiar.

The memories are for the most part happy ones although the last post I made did include one Christmas that was sad and lonely.

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Still, I’m thankful that the happy times far outweigh the sad ones.

For a girl growing up in the Midwest Christmas has always meant:

  • Christmas trees and decorations

 

  • Caroling

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  • cold temps

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  • sometimes snow

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But I will never forget the one Christmas I spent without all the trees and decorations, without caroling, no cold temps and certainly no chance of snow.

I spent Christmas of 1991 at the beach on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

My husband and I had gone to the Philippines with our youngest daughter to teach in a Bible school.  While there we also spoke and often gave classes to the ministerial staff at local churches.  Our daughter began a Kids Klub with the local neighbor hood children.

I wrote about her experience there in:

The Piped Piper of Iloilo City

It never really felt like Christmas there.  The temperature was much too warm.  It was  lonely thousands of miles from our family.  There were few bright lights.  In the gated community where many of the other missionaries lived there were trees and lights.  But in our neighborhood no one could afford such luxuries.  Many of our neighbors did not even have electricity for any lights.  Most struggled to provide food for their families and there would be few, if any, presents and certainly no Christmas tree.

There were decorations in the stores downtown, but none like we were used to.  The mall downtown had some beautiful ones made from bamboo.

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The only Christmas decoration we had was a nativity set we found at a local store.  It was amazing to us that even in the Philippines, the nativity set portrayed Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as white.  Clearly Jesus would have been dark-skinned like those from the Middle East but somehow we have made Him into an image totally foreign to what He would have been.

We held a birthday party for Jesus with the kids in the neighborhood.  We had a birthday cake, played games and had so much fun with the kids.  It was a joy to also share with them the story of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas day we shared a picnic at the beach with another missionary couple from Norway.  Like us, it seemed strange to have no snow or cold temperatures.  As you can see, from the pictures, we really dressed up for the day.  NOT!

As I look at these pictures today I wonder where those children are now.  How many had the privilege of completing school?  How many even survived to adulthood?  It is my prayer that we did make a difference in their lives while we were there.

This year as we feel the cold temperatures, I do think how nice it was that year to enjoy sunshine and the ocean.  But I still am glad to be here with my family.  Wherever you are, whatever your Christmas is –

Maligayang Pasko – or Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Mary Know – Do You Know?

There is a popular Christmas song that many love and it gets a lot of air time at the holiday season.  I love it too, especially the line that says “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”

 

 

But I have to ask myself as I listen to this song, do I know.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this statement:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

Another writer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written

Our supreme need is to know God.

But, what do we mean by knowing God?

The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d”y],translated “know”/”knowledge, ” appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know, ” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.

Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions ( Micah 6:5 ). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

The Biblical use of knowing someone implies a relationship.  In Genesis 4:1 we are told that “Adam knew Eve his wife” meaning he had a physical union with her.  Jesus used the word “know” when He spoke of his relationship with His followers.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)

The Apostle Peter admonishes Christian to

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wonder do we truly “know” Him?  Is He really a part of our everyday life or just someone we visit on Sunday morning? Do we really invite Him to be part of our plans as we work, play, shop?  Better yet, do we invite Him to guide us so that we recognize His plans for us?

Do I know about him or do I know him?

For example, I know about President Trump.  I can tell you he is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife.  He is loved by the political right and hated by the political left.  He is from New York and is a real estate billionaire.

But I do not know him.  If I met him on the street he would not have any idea who I was.  I will never be invited to his family Christmas dinner (not that I would want to).  We have no personal knowledge of each other.

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In thinking how do we come to know Jesus, I think of my own relationship with my husband.  When I first met him all I knew was that he was a father trying to raise two teenagers by himself, that he was highly respected by his church family, that he liked to sing.

As we began to spend time together, slowly I learned more about his man.  He was a veteran of the US Air Force, he loved flowers and was a great gardener, he hated stewed tomatoes.  By the time we were married, I could say that I truly knew him.

However, after almost 35 years of marriage, I realize that my knowledge of him on our wedding day was small compared to what I have discovered over these years of marriage.  Today, I think it is correct to say I know him better than anyone else.

So it is with the Lord.  The more time we spend in His word, in prayer, in mediation the more we will know Him.

This Christmas, do you know about Jesus or do you know Him?  What are your plans to know in your knowledge of Him?

 

 

 

 

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Recently I posted a blog on my memories of my favorite Christmas gift ever.  After posting that I have found myself awake in the middle of the night thinking of other Christmas memories.  Seems this first post has now led to more.

Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

In my second post I shared how my future husband proposed to me on Christmas Day 1968.  We had thirteen wonderful years together and were blessed with two beautiful daughters.

One of the memories that came to me in the middle of the night was a Christmas that was lonely and difficult.  In March of 1982 my husband (whose proposal I wrote about in a previous post) was killed in an accident.

Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

This was the first Christmas my young daughters and I spent without him.  Although it has been 36 years since that Christmas I can close my eyes and still feel the pain, the deep unspeakable sense of being alone.

But along with these sad thoughts comes one that makes me smile.

That year a friend had given my youngest daughter a book for Christmas that brought us some laughs.  Called the “Ugly Joke Book,” it had the usual jokes like:

  • Beauty is only skin deep …but ugly goes all the way to the bone!
  • I was such an ugly kid. When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.
  • You know you’re ugly when it comes to a group picture and they hand you the camera.

In this day of PC I suppose these jokes would not be appropriate to many.  That Christmas night, seeing the sad faces of my little girls, I was determined to not let their Christmas night end in terrible sadness.  Out came the book.  I had us all get in our pajamas, climb into bed and read the jokes.  Some of the jokes were funny, others not so much.  But I laughed at each one as if it was the funniest thing in the world.  After reading the book and staying up way past their bed time, I laid with them asleep in my arms and thanked God that in the midst of sorrow, if we look for it, we can also find joy.

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We had spent Christmas Eve with our extended family.  We were made so sad because during the entire day no one said anything about our husband/father.  It was as if he had never existed; as if his absence was of no importance to anyone.  Before returning home, I expressed my hurt to my older sister.

I think I made her cry as she explained they had all agreed not to mention his name because they were afraid of causing us pain.  They thought they were doing the kind thing.  Sadly they had not.

So – if you have family or friends who have lost a loved one this year – or really any time in the past – don’t be afraid to mention them.  Say how you miss them.  Share memories you have of them.

God has blessed us and He brought a good man into our lives a few years after this Christmas and my daughters have married and have a family.  Our Christmas this year will not be lonely and we are happy.

But we will always remember this wonderful man that made that Christmas one to remember.  And in the midst of our celebration, our thoughts will remember dear, dear Lonnie Lott.

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Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

Christmas always brings memories of the past as I reflect on all the years that have passed.  I remember:

  • The little wooden ornaments I painted for my little girls that they now hang on their trees.
  • The Christmas plate three of my grandchildren painted for me.
  • The live Christmas tree my husband and I purchased the first year of my marriage and how our son planted that tree in the front yard.  How quickly it grew and how sad it was when we drove by the house years later and saw the new owner had cut it down.

One special Christmas remains in my heart forever – Christmas of 1968.

My boyfriend had just completed basic training at the USMC base in San Diego, California and was coming home on Christmas Eve.  He was traveling home by bus and his parents were going to call me as soon as he let them know he was at the bus station in St. Louis.  They would then swing by and pick me up and we would go to get him.

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It was late when the call finally came and I was so excited!  After we picked him up at the bus station we hurried to his home where his eight brothers and sisters were anxiously waiting to see him.

By the time the family reunion was over it was early morning Christmas Day and Lonnie got the keys to the family car to drive me home.  Sitting in the car before I went inside he asked me to marry him.

I said YES!

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Sadly, the wedding would not be for a while as he was headed to Vietnam shortly after the New Year.

The holidays were both happy, but sad.  So good to be together, to celebrate our engagement.  So sad to face the months ahead of separation and danger for him.  Would he survive the war?  Would we really be married?

This Christmas I think of all the service men and women who are far from home protecting our country and of their family – parents, spouses, children — who will have an empty spot at their table.

If you know someone who is serving overseas, send them a card and let them know you are thinking of them.  If you know a family who has a member who will be absent this year at the festivities, give them a call.  Encourage them and share your appreciation of the sacrifice both they and their family member are making for us.

My story had a happy ending.  After 13 months my Marine returned home and we were married.